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SHEETFED PRESSES -- Sizing Up the Options

August 2002

Sheetfed offset presses have long been considered the workhorses of the commercial printing industry. This market position has been strengthened by the introduction of new formats, configurations and productivity features to the stable of mid- to large-format machines.

The eight-page, 40˝ (or so) press traditionally has set the standard for the market segment. It has been a source of identity both for shops with the capability and those aspiring to reach that benchmark. Now, press models on either half of the format range increasingly are looking like fun house mirror reflections of the modern, 40˝ press. The state-of-the-art across the board includes five or six-plus colors, extensive automation and in-line coating capabilities.

Defining Terminology

If the 40˝ is the standard, then it's obvious what constitutes a larger format press. Defining a cutoff point for the "mid-size" designation is a bit of a moving target, though.

"Most manufacturers have discontinued their 26˝-wide presses because the format was just a downsized version of a 28˝/29˝ press with a similar cost," asserts Mike Grego, marketing manager for Sakurai USA, in Schaumburg, IL. "We are taking the opposite approach by introducing the compact, 466SIP 26˝ press that is a super-sized version of a 22˝ press. This machine can do almost everything a true half-size press can do, but costs a lot less," Grego says.

Probably the most significant development in the sheetfed press market during the last 18 months has been the availability of the 23.5x29˝-format press, asserts Ray Mullen, vice president of sales and customer service at Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses in Lincolnshire, IL. "It offers many of the advantages inherent in the smaller format, but at the same time provides greater flexibility in the type of work it can print, such as a six-panel piece, some P-O-P (point-of-purchase) sizes or pocket folders. That work couldn't be run as efficiently on a 20x28˝/29˝ press," Mullen says.

"Presses like our Roland 300 and 500 are redefining the half-size category," agrees Christian Cerfontaine, director of marketing at MAN Roland in Westmont, IL. "Both models feature a six-up, 23x29˝ format instead of the classic four-up size, and they are fast (16,000 sph and 18,000 sph, respectively). Since they can compete with 40˝ presses, the move to high-speed, six-up sheetfeds is a growing industry trend," he claims.

The breadth of high-quality, high-productivity product offerings is leading to a trend in printers "right-sizing" their pressroom lineups, says John Dowey, vice president of product management, sheetfed, at Heidelberg USA in Kennesaw, GA. "What that means is printers might consider adding an efficient and modern half- or even three-quarter-size press into their 40˝ pressrooms. Jobs that in the past might have be run on a 40˝ with a smaller sheet can be moved to the smaller presses and produced very economically. These presses offer a lower capital investment and reduced labor costs."


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